John Lloyd Young: My Turn
The Tony Award winning Jersey Boys alum's comforting new show at Café Carlyle floats on pop's classic love songs.
Cabaret is not an iPod with a shuffle switch, so take note before heading to former Broadway Jersey Boys star John Lloyd Young's new show, My Turn, now at the Café Carlyle—this 80-minute evening is the equivalent of having your radio tuned to an easy listening station that can't be turned off.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Starting off with the song most expected to be Young's encore--The Four Seasons' catchy "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," arguably the biggest hit off Jersey Boys playlist--the baby-faced crooner smoothly works his way through beautifully-crafted romantic classics like "Since I Fell For You," "You Belong to Me," and "Unchained Melody" with the kind of passion that makes every woman in the house (and most of the men, I imagine) feel like the singer's own personal valentine.
Young later unleashes his famed falsetto, so impressive during that Tony Award-winning stint as Frankie Valli, on an impressive version of "Hey There, Lonely Girl." (Though he admits, with charm, the song was much easier to perform in the recording studio than it was live.) Additionally thrilling are the moments when tenor shows off his soulful side, as done to vocal audience approval on the R&B favorites "Show and Tell," "Let's Stay Together" and "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me."
In addition to a program of crowd-pleasers, the element that makes Young's solo show work as well it does is the pop-savvy song arrangements of musical director and keyboardist Tommy Farragher, all of which benefit from the sensitive playing of a six-piece, string-heavy band. Add a couple of back-up singers (not that there would be any room for them on the tiny Carlyle stage) and these singles might even sound better in the hands of Young's ensemble than they did in their heyday.
Still, My Turn could benefit from the inclusion of more lesser-known material. There was a particular pleasure in discovering Randy Newman's beautiful "Just One Smile" and Ronnie Bird and Pierre Papadiamandis' "Say No More" (introduced as the "best Roy Orbison song that was never released"), the only two tunes new to my ears. Young could also streamline his patter a bit, especially some of the early introductions that focused on the history of the Carlyle, and which slowed the evening's momentum.
While My Turn might not fully satisfy every cabaret-goer, if you're the kind of person who relishes the best slow-romance tunes of the 1950s through the 1970s you'll find this smartly put-together program is, as Young aptly puts it, the "musical equivalent of comfort food." Believe me, you won't leave hungry.